Questions to Rodriguez from MLB are not a PR stunt

For now, what is important is a spokesperson in the Commissioner’s office has confirmed to me they are sticking by their statement from Wednesday, “We take this very seriously and have been investigating this matter since the initial allegation.  As part of the investigation, the Commissioner’s Office will interview Mr. Rodriguez.”  This is not a public relations stunt by Major League Baseball.

Of course they are upset. Major League Baseball needs to know the facts and depending on what the facts actually are, they need to make sure nothing illegal happened.   As Buster Olney outlined in his article:

Two lawyers who work within the sport indicated that MLB would have specific concerns to investigate:

• Was Alex Rodriguez connected in any way to the cocaine allegedly used at the poker event?

• Did he incur a level of debt that would make him more vulnerable to gamblers?

• In the midst of the card playing, was he involved, in any way, in betting on baseball?

Beyond the answers to these questions, there’s a deeper question about baseball which is hard to adequately answer when these type of problems surface. Should professional ballplayers be called hero’s? Should we expect more from ballplayers than we would from our neighbor across the street?

Most people will say no. But the problem with this is when it comes time for the fourth grade biography report many kids always choose one of these non-heroes: Elston Howard, Joe Dimaggio, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Billy Martin, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez. Children distinguish them as being special, worthy of admiration.

The tension between wanting a hero and just wanting a 4 WAR position player is what makes baseball so unique, so special. On one hand, Rodriguez (before going on the DL), had a batting line for the Yankees of 366/.485/.852. Perhaps all judgment on Rodriguez should end there?

Unlike other sports, with baseball, we live with these guys every day during the summer — when they fail us we feel it more keenly. Baseball is not just a weekend event, the ins and outs of the game happen every day, we live it.

Tony La Russa has been in baseball longer than I have been alive. Basically, I’ve known about La Russa since the first day I became a baseball fan. So, when he’s arrested on a drunken driving charge, it matters more because he’s a part of what baseball is to me.

What happens to baseball players, the good the bad and the ugly, is just a cross-section of what is happening in all areas of society. The report of a high stakes poker game turning ugly and someone openly using cocaine is not different than what you could find in a several million dollar house anywhere in the country. But the difference, the unanswerable question is: do we expect more from our superstars?

On Thursday morning I went for a run with a good friend and she told me, “My son switched sports this year because the drugs on the team were getting out of control. He doesn’t want to associate with that group of kids anymore.” We talked about how difficult it is to keep track of teenagers and make sure they pick the right friends. I said goodbye, grabbed my coffee and bought a New York Times. I do this every day. As always, I went straight to the sports section. Thursday I read, “Alex Rodriguez to be asked about poker games.”

The officials announced Wednesday that they would ask for the meeting after Star Magazine reported that Rodriguez “played in an underground, illegal poker game where cocaine was openly used, and even organized his own high-stakes game, which ended with thugs threatening players.”

Really? Fourth graders know it’s important for them to distance themselves from bad influences. Teenagers can sense when it’s time to pick new friends. But Alex Rodriguez? Let him do what he wants.

As a parent you ask your child, “Tell me the truth, did you draw on the wall with sidewalk chalk?” You do this because you want to teach them they shouldn’t lie. As a parent you teach your son he  shouldn’t hit his sister when he’s angry. You do this because you want him to know it’s never okay to be violent towards someone when he’s angry. As a parent, on a Friday night in August, you let your kids stay up until midnight to watch Alex Rodriguez hit a walk-off home run in the fifteenth inning to beat the Boston Red Sox. You do this because you want to share these moments together and hopefully, just maybe, by seeing a person they’ll love a game.

Maybe we don’t need to worship Rodriguez, or any baseball player for that matter. Maybe we shouldn’t even care about his personal life, so long as he keeps it legal, but we have to care about the integrity of the game, the problem is, it’s entwined with baseball players.

Anna McDonald is a Page 2 contributor for ESPN and covers the Yankees for the It’s About the Money, part of the SweetSpot Network. You can also follow her on Twitter.

12 thoughts on “Questions to Rodriguez from MLB are not a PR stunt

  1. I personally find Miguel Cabrera's DUI and police altercation in Spring Training about 100 times more troubling than ARod allegedly playing poker.

  2. But what's the logical leap to intertwine these things? At Mohegan Sun, when they closed the poker room the first time, it was because of a drug and prostitution ring being run out of it to which my response was "where the hell was I?" In every single Las Vegas casino, do you know what's next to the Poker Room? The Sports Book (watching Jeter's 3000th hit/HR in MGM Grand sports book right before my morning tourney == a great experience). Do you know who is a former cocaine user? The manager of the Texas Rangers.

    I just don't understand what MLB has here. Is it because ARod was linekd to Galea? To steroids? Does he follow a different set of investigative rules than, say, one of your most marketable star having battled through personal demons and is now drug/alcohol free being managed by a man who did drugs? If I were a betting man (and, y'know, I am), I'd say that 90% of home- and club- games are drug and violence-free. Liking poker and playing poker are liking the thrill of probability and winning; it never once occurred to me to shoot up because of that.

    • And from what I gather, it's not like A-Rod was hanging out in some dark underground club, the game in question was at a Hollywood mansion, wasn't it?

  3. I'm not an A-Rod lover, but he does seem to be singled out for persecution, be it from MLB or Sports Illustrated writers seeking to create names for themselves. Noone was a bigger gambler than MJ, and he is revered as one of the greatest atheletes ever and is paid millions to hawk underwear and other products. Playing in a private poker game is not illegal. Being in a room where someone else whips out drugs is not illegal. Hanging out with people who do illegal things on their own time is not illegal. Nor do any of these things remotely implicate the "best interests of the game." MLB needs to mind its own business. And the post above is spot on. It's ok to manage a team right after admitting you were just recently a coke addict, but you can't play poker? And why on earth does playing poker make it more likely you bet on baseball? I think a manager who recently had a drug addiction is more likely to get desperate and try and fix a game than a player whose net worth is nearly 1B dollars, and who is very focused on his personal stats.

  4. Look, I'm not the biggest A-Rod fan out there. But I just don't see how MLB really has anything here other than to bust A-Rod's balls.

    • Was Alex Rodriguez connected in any way to the cocaine allegedly used at the poker event?
    Pretty sure we would have heard about a failed drug test in the year it went down. If he provided it, would someone have more proof than just saying so?

    • Did he incur a level of debt that would make him more vulnerable to gamblers?
    Not to be crass, but wouldn't it have to be something like a few million to be significant to A-Rod? Besides, in Wallace Matthews' story on ESPNNY, the source says "I would estimate A-Rod lost, like, a few thousand dollars that night." So the equivalent to me losing a few dollars (thanks Hank).

    • In the midst of the card playing, was he involved, in any way, in betting on baseball?
    I'm not sure how this leap gets made. Also nothing in the stories that have come out seem to suggest this.

    I mean I'm keeping an open mind but I just think it's much ado about nothing, it's just A-Rod being A-Rod and pissing off Bud since he told him to cut it out a few years back. But isn't any poker game someone hosts at their house technically illegal? Maybe it's because I think I've done the same thing on a small scale, like when I go to someone's house and buy in for a couple hundred, and there isn't blow but another common illicit drug.

  5. In addition, if we were talking about "against the integrity of the game," wouldn't "Ball Four" or wife swapping or drunk driving or spousal abuse or drug use be higher on the list than the old McCarthy standby of "guilty by association?"

  6. There is a lot of hipocracy over the gambling angle here. Casinos advertising inside stadiums, ESPN covering the WSOP, etc. But the issue i take with this whole fiasco is the awful state of journalism. One story with bad sources lit off a firestorm of judgments based on conjecture that lead to indignation.

    I was really dissapointed by that Buster Olney article because it came several hours after the daily news broke the Dan Bilzarian story saying that none of what was atributed to him was true. Not olny did Buster not bring that up he pretended that it wouldn't of even mattered if the allegations weren't true.

    If baseball is concerned over its players gambling then the investigation needs to be wider than one player involved in a home game (high stakes or not). A-Rod may be in the spotlight but the real problems usually lurk in the shadows.

  7. This is nothing more than a witch hunt precipitated by a questionable media source (Star Magazine?) with the fires fanned by a group of "reporters" who would like nothing more than to see Rodriguez be walked out of Yankee Stadium in handcuffs with a raincoat over his head.

    That being said, I find it interesting that the writer would insert Elston Howard into her list of "non-heroes". I don't remember any untoward incidents regarding Howard. I seem to remember him as a player who conducted himself well both on and off the field. Does he deserve to be lumped in with the likes of Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio and Billy Martin, whose behavioral flaws are well known? For that matter, I don't think Lou Gehrig and Derek Jeter deserve to be referred to as "non-heroes" either. I'd be interested in the reason why those three were lumped in. Unless this is one of those people who considers most athletes unworthy of hero worship, which will always be open to debate.

    • Bill, I think you misunderstood. Anna is saying that we may want to regard all baseball players as non-heroes (another way to say this is that we may not want baseball players to be seen as role models). However, our children invariably view their favorite players as role models, which is why they want to write their biographical pieces about baseball players. Howard is very much a hero; he's the Yankee who broke the color barrier.

  8. Alternatively, if you isolate the poker playing, isn't the rest of the stuff just a matter of how you package it? The two people fighting could simply be "people fight over money," which is benign, and the drug use and A-Rod's leaving could be packaged as "A-Rod wants nothing to do with drugs. Yay A-Rod!."

    Of course, you add in "poker" and everyone loses their mind, especially with the way the media is trying to imply A-Rod is hanging out in some dark seedy basement with mobster's at the back table.

  9. I'm not Arod's biggest fan but think you can benefit from the Barkley line…"i'm not your kids role model"…You didn't let your kid stay up late to watch Arod's walkoff, you let your kid stay up late to finish a game, too bad for you that Jeter didn't win the game and now your kid idolizes Arod.

    Arod has been great for the game, is charible, works with the kids coming up, etc. He loves himself…so what. You should teach your kid that Arod is much more blessed than Jeter, is human and gets caught up with some poor decisions which take away all his credits with the MSM. Arod saved a kids life and is likely a good but somewhat flawed human being. Jeter likely is a well, but makes overall better personal decisions. Neither is cursed and both live and have a great blessed lifestyle.